France Plans to Merge Anti-Piracy Agency With Media Regulator

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France's Ministry of Culture and Communication says that the country's anti-piracy agency, Hadopi, will likely merge with the Higher Audiovisual Council, an institution with the role of regulating electronic media. The plan is to create a more powerful authority capable of regulating both audiovisual and digital communications.

France has been working hard to disrupt online piracy for more than a decade, largely through the efforts of local anti-piracy agency Hadopi.

After many years of planning, in 2010 France became a pioneer of the so-called “graduated response” system, whereby persistent copyright infringers could eventually find themselves disconnected from the Internet.

The entire project was overseen by Hadopi (High Authority for the Distribution and Protection of Intellectual Property on the Internet), the government agency responsible created to ensure citizens comply with relevant anti-piracy laws.

Hadopi has made the headline numerous times over the past 10 years, largely reporting on progress in its field. However, Hadopi’s main goal was to reduce illicit sharing on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent, which has in many instances given way to streaming equivalents in the interim.

In an announcement this week by the Ministry of Culture, it transpires that a new bill foresees Hadopi merging with another powerful government agency in the near future

The CSA (Conseil Supérieur de L’audiovisuel / Higher Audiovisual Council) – is the local authority for the regulation of electronic media in France, including television. It’s envisioned that a merger between Hadopi and CSA will create a brand new organization with even greater powers for regulating all things digital.

According to a Reuters report, the merger project will be presented to the Council of Minister in November before arriving at parliament early next year.

“The idea is to create a new authority based on this merger that regulates both audiovisual communications and digital communications,” said Franck Riester, France’s Minister of Culture.

Earlier this year, Riester noted that the convergence between the Internet, television, and radio needed to be addressed. This planned merger seems a clear attempt to bridge the gaps although what it will mean for anti-piracy enforcement will remain to be seen.

A July 2018 report indicated that not only were French pirates on the wane (down from 11.6 million in 2016 to 10.6 million in 2017), many were increasingly turning to legal sources such as Netflix.

Those that were still determined to pirate were also downloading and streaming less unlicensed content, with consumption down by 4% and the number of pirates without access to a legal subscription dropping by 30%.

A more recent report, published this June, indicated that in 2018 the agency had dealt with 50,000 to 70,000 instances of Internet users unlawfully and repeatedly making content available on peer-to-peer networks.

“[D]uring the three phases of warnings sent to Internet users, 60% of them were no longer accused of new illegal acts,” Hadopi said, citing the scheme’s effectiveness.

Nevertheless, calls remain for enforcement to be stepped up, including via the use of blacklists that would help to restrict access to unlicensed streaming sites via ISPs and search engines, while encouraging advertisers to boycott the platforms.

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